Self care has a problem. And it’s not just that chocolate cake and bubble bath aren’t going to do anything for you in the long run (well, maybe if it’s a really good chocolate cake…). It’s that word ‘self’.
One of the most damaging ideas in our culture is individualism. It’s the idea that what makes you happy is luxuriating in the first person – soaking unashamedly in me, myself and I.
It will make you anything but happy. And so here we are, living in the age of loneliness. A human being cannot thrive in isolation. We can’t even survive in isolation. And I’m saying this as a fully paid-up member of Extreme Introverts Inc. My idea of a great night out is generally speaking to not have one. But even I recognise that without connection – real connection – I’m finished.
We are made for community. We are made for each-otherness. We are a web, not single strands dangling of our own accord.
We cannot care for our selves alone.
Now don’t get me wrong – I’m all for cultivating healthy personal habits. Having lived with clinical depression and anxiety, I know how important it is to take practical steps to look after your own wellbeing. But top of that list has to be to move past the parameters of your self, to extend beyond the dimension of your own being – whether that be reaching out for help or reaching out to help.
You can make your day by making someone else’s. You can care for yourself by extending care to another. You can heal yourself by becoming medicine for someone else.
The best kind of self care is ‘us’ care.
It’s not easy during lockdown. We have to make even more of an effort to cultivate community and each-otherness. But it’s worth it.
Hope is a golden leaf falling to the ground. It knows that one day it will become the soil; it knows that one day a seed will settle into its dark arms; that roots, blind but seeking still will spread into the deep.
Today is Yom Kippur – one of the oldest sacred festivals in the world. At the time Jesus was born (roughly 2,000 years ago), Yom Kippur would already have been ancient. As a Jew, it would have been the holiest day of the year for him.
One of the rites performed on Yom Kippur is to say the Yizkor – a prayer of remembrance for loved ones we’ve lost. This feels particularly apposite given the year we’re having.
I’ve written a Yizkor below that you are welcome to use. It’s also traditional to light a candle. Whoever or whatever it is you’re grieving (because it’s not just people that we grieve), I hope this helps.
Or, if you have someone or something in mind that you’d like prayer for today, let me know and I’ll include them as I say my Yizkor.
If we wished for a lighter life, It would be a life without love. Spirit, be with me as I carry this weight. If we wished for a unbroken life, It would be a life without love. Spirit, be with me as I carry these wounds. If we wished for an uncomplicated life, It would be a life without love. Spirit, be with as I carry this pain. We mourn those we have lost. We give thanks for their lives. We remember them. We hold them now. We hold the weight of grief We hold the wounds We hold the pain And above all And above all And above all We hold the love. Amen.
I thought I dreamt of a forest once, darkly green, a place where the wind could hide and becoming lost we would find ourselves. I thought I dreamt of fallen leaves, of decay enriching the soil; life rising from the sweet sting of impermanence. Now awake, enclosed by undying concrete, I think of the beginnings that will never come because of the endings that cannot.
After perhaps fifteen minutes or so I gave up looking for the song thrush. Not because I am impatient, though there is that, not because I didn’t want my coffee to get cold, though there is that; no, it is because I realised that as long as I was searching I was not listening, as long as my mind was grasping my heart was not receiving, as long as my eyes were straining to find the source of the music I could not stop to revel in the fact that there should be music at all.
All that is good is growing.
Yesterday and so many yesterdays
it seemed dead. But now
the deep God stirs in her earth,
and seed and root remember sky
and brightened make their move
towards it. Life rubs its eyes, spring
no longer a dream to sustain
through the colding days
but a reality born from sunlight
and bluebells and the sure refrain
of the chiffchaff.
All that is good is growing;
the darker season has had its time
and will do so again, a knowledge
to make these thrill bloomings
all the sweeter. The return of the swallows
is only marked because they left,
and will leave. But today in the fields
the lambs are becoming sure of their feet,
and green is dancing once more in the trees,
and in the gardens there is a tenderness
showing itself in the eyes of the flowers.
I see that I am not dead,
nor is the hope that I was once born into.
I see the meaning in our burials –
that despairing we might rise for air
and unexpectedly find it, and explore it
with lungs made new by thankfulness.
Even though the last stands of cold
may cling to us, along with the clenching memory
of winters past – all those dyings of our hearts –
even so, today and so many todays:
all that is good is growing.